Archie Archie

The Battle For Archie

The New York Times has a piece about the nasty in-fighting between the two families who own control the Archie Comics universe, which also includes properties like Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Josie the Pussycats. In short, one side–Jonathan Goldwater–wants to bring aboard outside investors and get Hollywood involved, while the other side–Nancy Silberkleit–wants to preserve family ownership of the company. The animosities have led to accusations of sexual harassment, defecating dogs, and punctured car tires. Currently, there’s a restraining order against Ms. Silberkleit, though she was recently fined for violating that order and showing up at the company’s headquarters accompanied by an ex-football player.

As it stands, it’s remarkable that Archie hasn’t already succumbed to corporate media consolidation. Few classic comic and animation properties are owned independently nowadays. Warner Bros. owns DC, Disney owns Marvel, and Classic Media owns Rocky and Bullwinkle, Gumby, Underdog, and the Harvey Comics library, just to name a few.

Archie Comics remains one of the rare holdouts, along with Alvin and the Chipmunks, which is owned by the creator’s son, Ross Bagdasarian Jr., and his wife Janice Karman. In a day and age when few mainstream cartoon creators even have the option of owning their creations, it’s nice to see an independently held company overseeing such a classic group of characters–even if its owners are fighting each other to the bitter end.

(Illustration by Mark Matcho)

  • Oliver

    After the way they treated Dan DeCarlo? Some might call it karma.

  • Sorry, but I really can’t get behind the families who own Archie. Not after what they did to Dan DeCarlo.

    • I’ve read some bad things about Archie’s work-for-hire agreements. A series of lawsuits relate to Ken Penders’ work on Archie’s Sonic the Hedgehog comic, and whether he owns the rights to characters he created for that comic and its Knuckles the Echidna spinoff:

      Elliot S. Maggin and Scott Shaw also claim ownership of their work, Shaw for StH, and Maggin for Archie’s Super-Teens #1. This is related to Penders’ lawsuit (, but from what I gather, Archie’s legal department was often asleep at the wheel. They almost lost the rights to Sabrina, since they didn’t have documents of ownership until around the time the television show was mounted.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Count me too on the DeCarlo debacle.

    • xevo

      Example of how Dan became an “unperson” at Archie:

      • Iritscen

        Yikes, that edited comic is scary. And they shoddily replaced the text in the word balloons with a font that makes everyone sound like robots in my head, like they’re Stepford replacements for the original Betty et al. “Dan DeCarlo? I have never ~*bzz*~ heard of him. I think you must have imagined that such a p-p-p-person existed.”

      • Steven R

        Not too many comics one can buy, if one only buys from companies that haven’t treated their creators poorly.

  • N W Smith

    That is THE best Dan DeCarlo-style I’ve EVER seen. Even got a little Harry Lucey and Bob Montana flavoring in it as well.

    Archie needs to hire Mr. Matcho – they don’t have a single artist now that can touch any of the great Archie artists, particularly from the standpoint of “good girl” art.

  • For the record, in addition to Archie and Alvin other classic character holdouts – still owned by their heirs – include Beany and Cecil (Clampett) and Felix The Cat (Oriolo).

    • As recently as the late 1990s, Classic Media only managed the Jay Ward properties with the ownership still in the family.

      Has this changed within the last decade?

      • Jay’s daughter Tiffany Ward does indeed still own the rights to Jay Ward’s creations.

      • And Will Eisner’s estate owns the Spirit.

    • Bob Harper

      And Pogo too. No?

    • top cat james

      You left out a biggie-“Peanuts”.

    • By all rights Felix should belong to the heirs of Otto Messmer.

  • …and even if the Bagdasarians sorta kinda sold out with the trainwrecks that are the “Alvin and the Chipmunks” CG/live-action movies.

    • The Gee

      Well, yeah but how else can they make money off of what they own without going through large corporations? Even if they explored other mediums they wouldn’t be able to manage and produce it all by financing the venture themselves. That’s part of the rub.That’s the reality.
      The same goes for countless other cartoon characters, like the entire Dr. Suess catalogue. You can reprint and reprint the books but there’s only so much fortune to be had in that.

      • The question I want to ask back here is this: Did they really need to make all that money to begin with? Hadn’t they had enough “fortune” from the Chipmunks as it was? Were they struggling finacially, or did they have other reasons for making the hybrid film deal with FOX? I’d think they would do just fine, financially, without those god-awful movies.

        Also: In the 1980s, the Bagdasarians actually financed a hand-drawn feature film themselves – and produced and directed it themselves. Now, I know the film had lots of production problems… but they did it. And we shouldn’t forget the hand-drawn cartoon series that ran through almost the entire decade of the 80s either. The Bagdasarians obviously had a LOT more creative control back then compared to what they have over the new movies.

      • Kevin Martinez

        Yeah, but the difference is that the creator-owners can deal with large corporations on their own terms. For example, Seuss’ estate can easily take their ball and go home if some big corporation tries to play hardball.

      • The Gee

        “Well, yeah but how else can they make money off of what they own without going through large corporations?”

        I don’t have a good answer for that.

        The thing is cartoon characters have almost always been rich in potential for licensing and being put in various media.
        It’s probably worse now as trends go because for years creators have made characters and told stories with the intention to take it to “the next level.”

        Personally, I like the idea of making something for one medium. But, I’ve certainly worked on things which were repurposed for other media and for products.

        It is just nice to know that some people have the copyrights instead of having sold all rights to a corporation. But, that brings up the question of how long should someone or some thing be able to control that copyright. Since the early 20th C. that’s gotten more and more messed up.

        Maybe I’m wrong but by tying up a creation in endless copyright, it almost seems like it is going to be exploited or put in a vault because it isn’t exploitable by the owner. I don’t think that is too good.

      • Seuss refused all commercial tie-ins to his creations with the rare exception of some animated cartoons. It was only after his death were his characters available to big corporations to exploit, but you’re right the estate still maintains control.

      • The Gee

        The one saving grace to that is that there is a Geisel foundation which does support the arts, probably among other things, too.

        So, the money earned also does good. I believe the Schulz family has a foundation which supports charitable works, too. Again, if it does good that seems more worthwhile if a work/a property is being exploited.

        Then there’s that Peter Pan/English hospital that (still?) owns the rights to that story and the characters Barrie created.

        Rare bright sides, sure. But, if the works are contributing to the greater good than just the heirs or the corporations they work with then I feel better about that. Obviously, greed is still a factor and some people, heirs and those at corporation working with Legacy characters/properties don’t always “get it.” But, that’s just the way it goes.

  • My favourite example of not taking the commercial road and retaining bucketloads of integrity – Calvin & Hobbes. A tip of the hat to Mr. Watterson.

    • I’d also add that nearly every comic character created in the past 30 or so years who are not owned by Marvel or DC are owned by their respective creators- i.e. Spawn, Hellboy, Scott Pilgrim, the Tick, Tank Girl, Usagi Yojimbo, Groo, all of Robert Kirkman’s Image-published stuff, Bone, Savage Dragon, and so on.

      Expect for the Ninja Turtles who are now owned by Viacom.

  • Scarabim

    Current Archie comics look like crap, in my opinion. All the gimmicks (Archie Marries Veronica! And there’s a new GAY kid in Riverdale!) can’t even begin to make up for that.

    • Annabel Cole

      The crappier art I’ve seen in recent Archie comics comes from Dan Parent, who draws the teenage cast looking like crudely rendered thirtysomethings. Everyone moves the same way in Parent’s art, too, so the formerly glamorous Veronica registers happiness by jumping and squealing like a giddy otaku. It’s a real betrayal of the characters.

      The gay character Kevin is written better than the one-note gimmick you make him sound like, Scarabim. Unfortunately, Parent draws him very unappealingly.

      • I’m conflicted about Dan Parent. His writing has some of the best ideas, and he can design some good covers, but his story art has all the flaws you mention. He’s everywhere at Archie now, presumably because of the success of Keven Keller, but he should be reigned in. Specifically, he was really a poor choice to draw the Archie/Kiss crossover.

    • ShouldBeWorkin’

      My complaint with Kevin Kellar is that he’s a non-mischievious, straight-A, army brat, all round nice kid.
      He’s actually the straightest (comedywise) kid in Riverdale.

  • eeteed

    this article is a must read for cartoon fans; mostly for the fanciful creation it espouses for the archie character…

    “…Mr. Goldwater was the visionary who dreamed up superheroes like The Shield and The Wizard and decided, after a few years, that their Pep Comics series could use a few characters who were not superpowered or monsters. In 1941, he sketched the face of a childhood friend: it was Archie, a girl-crazy, pratfall-prone, boy-next-door type.

    The cartoonist Bob Montana inked the original likenesses of Archie and his pals and plopped them in an idyllic Midwestern community named Riverdale because Mr. Goldwater, a New Yorker, had fond memories of time spent in Hiawatha, Kan. The Archie love triangle was another novelty Mr. Goldwater borrowed from his own past…”

    bob montana *INKER* ???!!! i think not.

    bob montana’s version of how archie was conceived was a bit suspect, but this… UTTER NONSENSE.

    • Gerard de Souza

      I think “inked” in this case is synonymous with “drew”. You are reading an newspaper article; not a comic fanzine.

      • eeteed

        if that’s the case, then “sketched” must be synonymous with “waited for all the creators to die, and then took undue credit”.

  • Kevin Martinez

    We’re going to see more creators owning their work as the webcomics and webtoons fields continue to bear fruit. No corporate ownership is in the cards for, say, Penny Arcade or Homestar Runner, or their sucessors.

    • Chris W

      Don’t be so sure.

      People end up selling their properties as they get older. They need the money for retirement.

      Most likely the indie work of today will be sold to the mega corporations of the future.

  • top cat james

    Go Goldwater! I want a “Super Duck” cartoon series.

  • ShouldBeWorkin’

    I think from a business standpoint, Mr. Goldwater has made some good decisions for the line. Obviously his background as a promoter helps, as reluctant as he was.
    Archie has changed with every generation, as much as we’d like to keep it the way we remember.
    Ms. S.’s reported behaviour reminds me of the saying, “Who died and made you king?”. Unfortunately, seems she forgets she is a co-ruler.

    I laugh at how people think they are made creative when the find themselves in an executive position in a creative company.

    Yes, I would too like to see Mr. Matcho do an Archie comic.

  • While I don’t care for the Chipmunk movies, they do make money so someone must like them.
    As a creator of cartoons and animations, I find it troubling that I am the only one to take issue with a statement such as ..” did they really need to make all that money to begin with? Hadn’t they had enough “fortune” from the Chipmunks as it was?”
    Stop looking into other people’s pockets.

  • The Gee

    A profile of Bob Montana….sorta related…sorta brief….but it has commmmics!

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Love it!

  • Like Betty & Veronica… but with lawyers :3